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[liberationtech] Mesh Networks?

Yosem Companys companys at stanford.edu
Fri Jun 17 08:06:49 PDT 2011


What do you all think?  Will mesh networks work?

Shervin Pishevar is a really smart guy, so if anyone can help organize this
effectively, it is he.

But mesh nets have been around for a while and never taken off, so just
wondering what the technical hurdles are.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

Yosem




   [image: CNN.com] <http://www.cnn.com/>





  Starting a revolution with technology

*(CNN)* -- Political revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia not only inspired
other regional uprisings -- they sparked a flurry of ideas about how to help
revolutionaries better communicate when their governments pull the plug on
the World Wide Web.

Shervin Pishevar, founder of Social Gaming Network
(SGN),<http://www.sgn.com/> has
a plan to give freedom-seeking individuals the ability to link up and form
their own life raft to "make what no government can ever block."

"I want to use technology to bring freedom to the Mideast," says Pishevar,
one of 10 members of Ted Turner's U.N. Foundation's Global Entrepreneurs
Council<http://www.unfoundation.org/about-unf/global-entrepreneurs-council/>
.

And Pishevar's latest startup, OpenMesh <http://www.openmeshproject.org/>,
would do just that.

OpenMesh involves the use of ad hoc wireless mesh network technology that
mimics the survival instincts of fire ants: A single fire ant will drown in
a pool of water. But if they link together, the ants can form a living raft
and survive.

Routers and mesh network-enabled laptops can link together to form a network
enabling individuals to send messages along these linked "nodes" to create a
local system that allows individuals within a group to communicate.

If one individual within the mesh network is able to connect to the outside
world, that person can share the connection with others on the network.

Mesh network technology is not new, nor is it the only work-around to
disabled wireless and Internet communications.

But Pishevar and fellow tech entrepreneur Gary Jay Brooks are providing a
space where online activists in the world's hot spots can come together to
share their ideas.

Starting in January, a regime-changing wave of protests started in Egypt,
inspired by demonstrators in neighboring Tunisia who ousted their president
in a popular uprising.

The Egyptian government shut down the Internet for five days during the
protests, so Egyptians used satellite connections, dial-up modems and land
lines to call Internet service providers in other countries to get online.

Mesh technology would have enabled those connected to share their
connections along the network.

By enabling groups of individuals with the physical hardware to work around
any state-imposed firewall, Pishevar plans to give freedom-seeking people
the tools to "eradicate dictatorships throughout the planet."

Many hard-line governments will attempt to drown out dissent by controlling
the Internet with kill switches and firewalls. But with a phone -- or a $90
router the size of one -- an individual can link to thousands of others,
creating a private network harnessing**the firepower of the Internet.

And that can create a free community unbound by topographical and state
barriers.

*Five ways they got around the censors*

The crackdown on the Internet in North Africa and the Middle East is hardly
a new tactic to quell political dissent.

A recent Freedom House study found that about a third -- 12 out of 37 -- of
the countries reviewed had "consistently or temporarily imposed total bans
on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or equivalent services."

Read the Freedom House study
(PDF)<http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/fotn/2011/FOTN2011.pdf>

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said restrictions on Internet
activity that prohibit free expression are among the most worrisome trends
concerning human rights.

Yet as governments become more savvy in their attempts to repress freedom of
expression on the Internet, their citizens have become cyber-sleuths,
creating innovative technologies to circumvent censors and authorities
tracking their Internet activities.

Activists in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain told CNN about five technologies
that have been most useful in getting around government-imposed blockades:

*1. Tor*

Tor <https://www.torproject.org/> is a circumvention tool that allows users
to access censored information online, by bouncing communications among a
network of users around the world, ultimately enabling its users to maintain
anonymity online.

Slim Amamou, a "hacktivist" based in Tunisia, describes Tor as a program
that enables you to "circumvent the central service of censorship by using a
computer from someone else in the world."

It played a crucial role, he says, because social media pages sharing
information about the protests were "systematically censored so you could
not access them without censorship circumvention tools.

"So [Tor] was vital to get information and share it."

*2. Speak to Tweet*

Speak to Tweet <http://twitter.com/#!/speak2tweet> is a joint project
between Google and Twitter that was first used during the Egyptian
revolution when the Mubarak regime shut down access to the Internet.

The application allows individuals to call a phone number and leave a voice
mail, which is automatically translated into a tweet with a hashtag from the
country of origin.

The program has also been used in Syria, Libya and Bahrain. You can listen
to the messages on Twitter through @speak2tweet.

*3. HTTPS Everywhere*

HTTPS Everywhere <http://www.eff.org/https-everywhere> encrypts
communications between its users and major websites, including Google,
Twitter and Facebook. The Firefox extension was created by the Tor Project
and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to Movements.org, "Using HTTPS means that you are creating a more
secure channel over an unsecure network, better protecting you from
surveillance and eavesdropping. HTTPS encrypts the transmission, but NOT the
content you are transmitting."

*4. Psiphon*

Psiphon <http://psiphon.ca/> allows clients to bypass content filters.
Unlike Tor, users do not have to download the program, but they need to be
invited into the network by another Psiphon user, making the network hard
for oppressive governments to infiltrate.

The Freedom House Review of Censorship Circumvention
Tools<http://freedomhouse.org/uploads/special_report/97.pdf>
recommends
this program for uploading and distributing materials when a high level of
security and fast app speed are required.

Additionally, the report says, although Psiphon provides privacy, it does
not give its users "full anonymity, since the proxy server will log all
client activity."

*5. CryptoSMS*

CryptoSMS <http://cryptosms.org/> is a service that sends and receives
encrypted text messages, which is particularly invaluable in places where
mobile phones are more readily available than Internet access.

It requires the SMS sender to create a password that is used to encrypt the
message. The recipient must have the password to decrypt it.

CryptoSMS will not hide your phone number; it will merely encrypt the
message itself.

*Creating an online oasis of freedom*

Pishevar developed his OpenMesh project as part of his participation in Ted
Turner's U.N. Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council.

Each council member is young, varied and unassuming.

Elliott Bisnow's company, Summit Series, doesn't even have a website. They
organize "Woodstock or Burning Man [type events] for business people," he
explains, and they do it all on Twitter.

These philanthropic entrepreneurs know how to use current, even relatively
old technology -- by crowd sourcing ideas and messages -- to create
ephemeral communities and movements that direct political change and
revolutions.

In floods of political turmoil, people like Pishevar are trying to create
oases for freedom.

"The number one thing that keeps me up at night is freedom," he says.

CNN's Scott Bronstein and Leon Jobe contributed to this report.

    Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/06/17/mesh.technology.revolution

© 2008 Cable News Network
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